Chief: Youth lack parental involvement

Published 6:00 pm Sunday, October 31, 2010

It doesn’t start in the streets, and it doesn’t start atschool.

It starts at home.

A return to the old ways of involved parenting and fast disciplinewas the message Saturday at an NAACP rally at St. James MissionaryBaptist Church, called in the wake of last week’s shooting death ofa local high school student. With about 40 parents and children inattendance, featured speaker Pap Henderson, Brookhaven’s chief ofpolice, raised his voice, dispensing with formalities andexplaining the harsh reality of the impact poor parenting has onthe city’s youth.

“We have picked up kids – 13, 14, 15 years old – and had to takethem to the police station. I’ve had to threaten parents, threatento put them in jail, if they didn’t come get their kids,” Hendersonsaid. “They didn’t want them.”

Accompanied to shouts of “amen” and groans of understanding,Henderson and other speakers attacked the home cause of the handfulof high-profile, violent acts committed by youth in 2010, the mostrecent of which was the shooting death of 16-year-old BryantHolloway last Sunday. Fellow 16-year-old Tye Q. Williams has beencharged in the killing and is being held on $250,000 bond at theLincoln County Jail.

Speakers talked of loitering teens, roving bands of trouble-makingyouth, simple vandalism and back-alley violence. They talked aboutschool dropouts and teenage pregnancy. They talked about all thethings they saw wrong in their communities – things Henderson saidbegin innocently on carefree nights in the fall.

“(Parents) bring their kids to the ballgame, drop their kids offand leave them for (the police) to deal with,” he said. “Someparents today have no idea what their kid is doing after 5p.m.”

Sometimes parents and neighbors do know, but won’t tell. It’s afrustrating thing for law enforcement to deal with, said Henderson,repeating a similar message he gave about communicating with thepolice in August.

“We’re not perfect. We need your help,” he said. “Y’all can be agreat help to us. We need you to stand up, step up to the plate andgive us information. In a town that’s a good town, you’re alwaysgoing to have help from good citizens.”

Henderson recounted last week’s sad story, when Williams’grandfather personally turned his progeny in to the chief after heallegedly shot Holloway.

“He came to my house Sunday night with his grandson. He told me,’He’s done something wrong, and I’ve got to bring him to you,'”Henderson said. “You think it didn’t hurt that man to bring hisgrandson in, knowing what was fixing to happen? Don’t try to coverfor your children – it’s too late. Just show up and try to helpthem as best you can.”

Henderson was the only public official who attended the smallrally, and he made known his displeasure at that fact.

“My problem is your aldermen are not here,” he said, noting thelack of any city officials other than himself. “This place shouldhave been packed.”

Other speakers brought up points that would have been bestexplained by the city’s council.

“We have to find something for our young people to do,” said RobertWinston, cousin to the late Holloway. “They need some kind ofactivities. Our young people have nothing really to do.”

Brenda Barnett told of youth problems in her neighborhood shebelieves exacerbated by abandoned houses.

“In the last two weeks I’ve had my back door kicked in, all fourtires flat, sugar in the gas tank – I call the police four times aweek, but every time they show up there’s no one there. They’ve ranoff through the back of those houses,” she said.

Johnny Hall, Jr., chief deputy for the Lincoln County Sheriff’sDepartment, called on everyone to get to know their neighbors,observe their neighborhoods and form neighborhood watches. Bothlocal law enforcement agencies have been promoting watch programs,holding a seminar late last month to show citizens how to set oneup.

“We need to back being ‘nosy neighbors,'” Hall said. “If you seesomeone messing around, call us. Don’t say, ‘It’s not my business.’When they break into your house, it’s going to be yourbusiness.”